Will Techmeier of the Techmeier Law Firm presents the following information and advice for parents of teens who are already driving or on the verge of driving.
We hope this guide helps you to prepare your teen to be a safe, responsible driver. If you would like to learn more, please call us today or submit an inquiry through our online form.
Getting Your Driver’s License in Wisconsin
To get their driver’s license in Wisconsin, teen drivers must go through the Graduated Driver’s License (GDL) program. The program’s goal is to give teen drivers more practice time behind the wheel before they get a probationary license. In this program:
Learner’s permit – The driver can obtain an instruction (learner’s) permit at 15 years and 6 months old. To get the permit, the teen must:
- Enroll in or complete an approved driver’s education course
- Be enrolled in a high school or equivalency program
- Pass the Wisconsin DMV’s written knowledge test.
This permit allows the teen to drive only if accompanied by a driver with at least two years of driving experience in the passenger seat. (If driving in darkness, this supervising driver must be at least 25 years old).
Probationary license – At age 16, the teen can move on to a probationary license if all requirements are met, including passing a driving skills test. For the first nine months, the teen is limited to driving with only one non-family passenger and cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless driving to home, work or school.
Full licensure – After two years on a probationary status, and without any traffic violations, the teen can become fully licensed.
The GDL program has been effective. In fact, a study that examined the launch of the program in 2000 found that it made teens 15 percent less likely to be involved in a crash (and 18 percent less likely to be in a fatal crash).
Talk with Your Teen About Safe Driving Practices
Although programs such as the Wisconsin GDL have helped to reduce teen driving accidents, there is still cause for concern.
Car accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for all 15- to 20-year-olds in the U.S. Recent statistics show that nearly 2,000 teens die each year in traffic crashes, while another 180,000 are injured.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, only six percent of licensed drivers in the state are ages 16 to 19. However, drivers in this age group account for 16 percent of all drivers involved in crashes.
In particular, parents should talk with their teens about:
Drinking and driving – Teens should know that roughly a third of all drivers killed in car crashes in Wisconsin between the ages of 15 and 20 are found to have consumed some amount of alcohol.
Although a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or above is guilty of drunk driving, a driver under age 21 with even a 0.01 BAC can face criminal prosecution.
Tell your teens to never drink and drive – or to ever get into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Encourage them to always call home for a ride if they fear that they can’t get safely home without doing so.
Distracted driving – Make sure that your teen driver knows that Wisconsin law bans drivers with a probationary license from using a cell phone behind the wheel. Also, text messaging is banned for drivers of all ages.
However, in addition to warning your teen driver about the law and the dangers of texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while driving, explain other possibly dangerous distractions.
For instance, make sure your teen understands that playing with a radio, eating, grooming, handling a pet or interacting with rowdy passengers can be risky as well.
Other safe driving tips – You can also discuss with your teen the need to:
- Always adjust mirrors and seat position as needed
- Always wear a seatbelt (and ensure passengers are belted as well)
- Never drive while drowsy or on the verge of falling asleep
- Never drive too close behind other cars (tailgating)
- Drive within the posted speed limit (or slower in bad weather conditions like snow)
- Drive defensively, meaning be prepared to react safely to what other drivers do.
Online Resources for Parents of Teen Drivers
We suggest that you check out these other sources online for ideas on getting your teens to drive safely:
- Wisconsin DOT Teen Driver Resources, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
- Teen Driving, National Safety Council
- Keys2Drive, AAA Guide to Teen Driver Safety
- Teen Driving – GDL / Teen Risk, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
- Cell Phones – Driving and the Law, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
- Young Drivers, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Alcohol-Impaired Driving, NHTSA
- Distracted Driving, NHTSA
- Teen Girls Twice as Likely as Teen Boys to Use Electronic Devices while Driving, AAA Foundation
- Teen Driver Fatality Risk Quadruples with Multiple Young Passengers, AAA Foundation